Scuderia Mugshots Part 4: ’96 Honda Civic


1996 Honda Civic

1.6 litre inline 4, 5 speed manual
Acquired 2015

In 2013 The Cyclist offered me use of his Civic while he was abroad for the summer working. I put more than 2000 miles on it, and it won me over by its astonishing minimalism. Let me clarify what I mean by minimalism – yes, a gas miser, yes dirt cheap parts, but moreover it seems you need not even repair it. The clutch slipped, the radiator leaked, but it never broke down. Now 15,000 miles on, neither fault has been repaired, nor have they worsened, and it remains bullet proof at 175k. The slipping clutch prevents any upshift at more than 4,000rpm, so it thereby neuters my hooligan tendencies.

I was inspired to write about it then, and shamelessly plagiarized James Ruppert ( for his Bangernomics term, and want to pause both to give him credit, and thank him for justifying my own love of cheap old cars, as a boy in England. So willing and loyal was this little Honda, that I asked The Cyclist to offer it to me first when he decided to get rid of it. During 2015, the Honda returned to the Scuderia more permanently: it wouldn’t pass smog, and this means you cannot get it registered, and this prompted The Cyclist to cry enough: the next time he was flying to Italy, he drove to my house, and pushed the pink slip and the key through the letter box.

Replacing the oxygen sensor – $25 and half and hour even for me, the world’s slowest mechanic – allowed it to pass smog. Indeed, the tester pointed out, with raised eyebrows, that it was running so clean it looked as if he had cheated the results. It seems those chaps at Minato really know how to bolt a motor together. But I should have already known that really, thanks to my 28,000 mile Honda CBR track bike.


This set me thinking, and I now conceived a further challenge to the motoring establishment: to continue to use this machine anyone else would have simply discarded, and take this clapped out Honda to 250k, and thereby prove that throwing cars away and continually making new ones as we do is far more ecologically unfriendly than driving an old banger.

I said in my piece on Bangernomics that choosing a slightly better example would have demonstrated the point I was making far better, and indeed the Civic has developed other small irritations in addition to those discussed in the previous article: the passenger door won’t open from the inside, meaning that it always looks like you’re helping your date out of the car and none of the electric windows work, making the interior stuffy despite the functioning A/C. It seems rather than window motors, there is a problem somewhere in the wiring loom. Ugh, so the stuffiness remains for the time being…..

Another notable issue is the Cruise Control, which still works, but requires perseverance, since it is very slow to take up, and slips. It burns a little oil, perhaps a quart every 3,000 miles.


For the sake of completeness it is only fair to say it did overheat once, and it was my fault for not topping up radiator, which it only needs every 1,000 miles or so. Apparently me putting water in the overflow wasn’t enough and it was a shame that two Swedish au pairs borrowing the car got stuck, not me. When I arrived to retrieve part of my Scuderia, I was relieved to see they hadn’t let it get too hot, and we got home fine. I was all set to change the radiator at the roadside – I’ve had the new one for about a year now, but is still in the trunk of the Bullitt car, and topping off with water was all the Honda needed. The garage where they stopped, just north of Monterey on PCH, was the same place where I had gassed up a 1956 V12 Ferrari, and done a talking head for TV show Mille Miglia North America.

I have been very much enjoying the extreme anonynimty of the Honda – literally, there is one on every street corner, and I often see ones in identical colours, even with the same distraught paint. The paint fascinates me – it makes these old Hondas like snowflakes, common and anonymous, yet each is individual. After the in your face offensiveness of the van, and the hairy chestedness of the Mustangs, it has been fun thrashing an inconspicuous low horsepower narrow-tired front wheel drive car.


250k here we come – if I can stand this kale munching motoring experience that long
Daily driver around the city

New Radiator fitting
Interior Passenger door release repair
An attempt at fixing the electric windows – I am not optimitic here, but now at least have a multi-meter !!!
Re-smog – due to a balls up with the ownership paperwork.